This week Bill Carne was introduced to a new sport for him by Jerry Owen, who at 16 is enjoying his involvement in Polocrosse: travelling back and fore to Bridgend for training that includes skill in riding a horse whilst using a stick akin to the one used in lacrosse . . .

This week we are introduced to a new sport via 16 year old Jerry Owen, from Dinas, who plays the game of Polocrosse, which demands good horse-riding skills alongside strong hand/eye co-ordination because participants have to use an implement similar to a lacrosse stick to propel a spongy, bouncy ball through a pair of wooden uprights to score a goal.

There are currently no clubs in our county but Jerry travels weekly to train in Bridgend alongside his older brother Theo, and the pair are hopeful that there will eventually be one for boys and girls to take part locally.

"The sticks we use are like high-tech crabbing nets," explained Jerry, "and the pitch is similar in size to the one used for rugby, with posts at either end, but divided into three segments for the attacker, midfielder and defender to station themselves in each team of three.

"The rules say that the central player must remain in his own zone at all times but the other two can utilise the central area alongside his or her own, so play is fast and furious as the ponies tend to be nippy and sure footed.

"But play is physical as well, because contact with opposing horses and riders tend to be on a 'no holds barred' basis and the view is pretty unanimous that if you fall off you have to get back on quickly, unless there are broken or dislocated bones!"

Play is of three six-minute segments (called 'chukkas’) and Jerry and Co agree that there is a real camaraderie and social side about the sport that makes it special!

Jerry got involved as a result of his family's love of horses, with mum Martha still riding for pleasure after being involved with horses over a number of years - and he had four productive years taking part in Pony Club competitions as a member of the Pembrokeshire Hunt team.

So when he heard about polocrosse taking part in the Bridgend area he contacted a lady called Natalie and was invited up to learn more about it. In his first session he learned about the rules, use of the stick and other details - and after liking what he had experienced took 'Cally', a pony who had been in the family for a decade, for his first session on horseback.

"'Cally' has a lovely cool temperament and didn't seem to mind the stick whizzing past her ears - and was ideally suited in terms of maneuverability so we were soon in the swing of things as we started to travel every week to training in an indoor arena so weather wasn't an issue.

"Then I attended a training day at Hartpury, just outside Gloucester, where the morning was used up in actual training and was followed by a tournament where I joined two more experienced girls in a team and we did well.

"What I soon learned was the fact that I didn't have to be a brilliant horseman to start but it was important to link riding ability with stick skills and tactical awareness, which is very important with only three in a team.”

Outside of Polocrosse, Jerry is also interested in rowing, again because his family have been involved and dad Mark helps sail a 46-footer called ‘Mischief’ that is skippered by Martin Sykes out of Milford Haven.

The immediate family is completed by Jerry's older brother Theo (19) who also takes part in polocrosse and in sailing has already qualified for the world championships in coastal sculls.

The Owen's family has quite a few boats and Jerry has actually built three boats, including a small power boat called 'Sasha' (built from a set of A4 plans) and a two-man canoe which he has now converted to a rowing boat because it can then be operated by just one person, with outriggers for balance which are known as 'gates'.

He also competes in longboat racing in Lower Town Fishguard for the local four-man coxed fours which has seven young rowers in its squad and is leading the Welsh League Celtic Longboat Championships after being top club last season as well.

"We race in the South League against the likes of Pembroke Yacht Club, Llanion (Pembroke Dock) and up as far as Newquay; whilst there is a North League centred on Porthmadog. We are separated for much of the season, other than from some races where we compete in what is called the Joint League.

"I normally row stroke, which is the rower nearest the cox, who steers the boat but doesn't row, so my job is to set the pace for the number of strokes per minute as our races are usually over two miles. We haven't lost a race in these leagues for two seasons so we must be doing something right," he says with a chuckle!

"But I also act as cox for the senior men, super vets and others in one of our three boats, which are named 'Moby Dick', 'Awel Las' and 'Cwch Bill'.

The longest race he has rowed in was the 'Boathouse Challenge', which takes place over 10.5 miles; whilst the Dinas Head Race is the most picturesque he has taken part in and covers 8.5 miles.

"We actually rowed last year in Mexican clothing, complete with a Mexican hats, so most of our competitors thought we were mad!" Jerry told us.

"We train out of Lower Town every Thursday evening and the men's teams train on Wednesdays, with races during the season usually on Sundays."

Back on the polocrosse front, Jerry has now competed in competitions in Dallas Burston (near Warwick) and Arden Polo Club (in the same area) and is gaining in experience and confidence.

He now has his own stick which was made in South Africa, where many of the top players come from and who are World Cup winners

So what of the future in polocrosse? At the moment Jerry is content to enjoy his sport for its own sake at 16 years of age, working through the range of competitive grades to senior level.

There is no doubt that he is fully committed to polocrosse and we wish Jerry Owen every success: and we are confident we will hear more of this modest young chap in the near future as he grows in experience and develops his skills even further!